Court issues stay halting early auction of TV rights

Fox Sports earned a favorable U.S. District Court ruling Friday in its efforts to halt an accelerated sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ post-2013 cable rights.

Judge Leonard Stark issued a stay, pending a Jan. 12 hearing, of a federal bankruptcy court ruling two weeks ago that enabled the Dodgers to begin selling those rights, even though they were not to come to market for nearly a year.

The bankruptcy court had previously ruled in the Dodgers’ favor on the theory that it would maximize the value of the bankrupt franchise, which is legally bound to be sold by April 30.

The stay upholds, for the time being at least, Fox Sports’ contractual exclusivity through Nov. 30 on negotiating with the Dodgers for cable rights that follow the expiration of their current deal.

Had Fox lost on these grounds, it would have accelerated the ability for others to make a play for the Dodgers, namely Time Warner Cable, which is likely to seek complimentary programming for its soon-to-be-launched cable channels dedicated to the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, it has been stipulated that the next owner of the Dodgers is not bound to accept any TV rights deal made by the Dodgers’ current owner, Frank McCourt. As a result, the Dodgers’ ultimate cable TV fate will likely remain open until the ownership transition takes place.

The fate of Fox Sports’ Prime Ticket channel is widely believed to depend on its ability to retain the Dodgers long term.

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